Day At The Track

Penn Gaming makes deal to purchase Plainridge

09:21 AM 04 Sep 2013 NZST
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Penn Gaming makes deal to purchase Plainridge

Penn National Gaming is making a third try to win a gambling license in Massachusetts, securing an option to buy the state’s only operating harness track, Plainridge Racecourse, where the gambling giant will pursue a slot parlor license, according to two people with knowledge of the deal.

 The move by Penn resurrects racino plans at the Plainville racetrack that appeared doomed in August, when the state gambling commission ruled the current owners of the track unfit to hold a slot parlor license.

The option agreement is a marriage of a developer without a site and a site that needed a new developer. The deal — the terms of which have not been released — was quickly negotiated in the days following an Aug. 20 town meeting in Tewksbury, at which voters refused to change town zoning and delivered a stunning defeat to a Penn slot parlor proposal off Interstate 495 and Route 133.

Plainville and track officials confirmed in August that Plainridge had begun talks with Penn.

The state gambling commission has not said if it will allow a new company to propose a slots plan at Plainridge, though the panel has a long record of encouraging the greatest possible competition for each of the licenses it controls.

There are three other competitors for the slots license: The Cordish Cos., planning a gambling parlor in Leominster; an affiliate of Rush Street Gaming, which wants to build in Millbury; and Raynham Park, the simulcast betting parlor and former dog racing track in Raynham. All three have passed their mandatory state background checks. Raynham voters have endorsed the Raynham Park proposal in a binding referendum. Residents of Leominster and Millbury will vote Sept. 24.

It was the state background check that originally tripped up Plainridge, a one-time favorite to win the license. The gambling commission disqualified Plainridge’s ownership group from holding a license after state investigators discovered that former track president Gary T. Piontkowski took roughly $1.4 million, a little at a time over several years, from the struggling track’s money room.

Penn’s background check is still underway and due to be finished this month. But the company likely knows by now if investigators have found anything that could cause Penn to be banned from the competition.

Penn originally tried to win a Massachusetts gambling license in Springfield, where the company proposed an $800 million casino resort. But Mayor Domenic Sarno chose a competing plan from MGM in April, concluding a citywide competition between the two gambling companies.

Plainville residents are scheduled to vote Sept. 10 on allowing a slot parlor at the racetrack.

by Mark Arsenault (reprinted with permission by



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